Indulge me with this quick test: what’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear this phase: “software licensing.” Statistics tell us that 96% of you either rolled your eyes so far back that it hurt, or uttered an expletive that wouldn’t be appropriate to put into print.* Why is that?
Well, it sure isn’t because people don’t want to pay for the software they use. Companies like Autodesk and The Foundry work hard to create awesome tools for us VFX artists to make our magic with. They listen to our feedback and give us regular updates. We wouldn’t be able to do our jobs without their fantastic products, so it’s only right that we compensate them for their efforts. Here at Atomic Fiction, we’re proud to say that we’ve never had a cracked piece of software on-premesis. So where’s the beef?
This, my honest fellows, is the beef: the mechanisms by which software is licensed are insanely complicated, inconvenient, inflexible, and prone to both human and machine error. They’re plain ol’ antiquated. F*ck FlexLM. Home-brew, dongle-based licensing systems can suck it. Seriously.
Every time Atomic Fiction pays tens of thousands of dollars for software, we have to wait hours or (more often) days for a license file. Once we get that license file, it needs to be installed, concatenated with previous licenses, its licensing daemon (sometimes the whole server) restarted, license counts checked and more of that fun mumbo-jumbo! If the totals don’t add up or we get errors, the whole process starts over again. God forbid we need additional licenses after hours or on a bank holiday. Guess how often people who crack their software have that problem? Never.
Artists sitting around = expensive and frustrating for everyone: us, our artists and our clients. God help us if a license server goes down. 40 people sitting around waiting on a fix for a single hour can cost us upwards of $2k! That hurts. Guess how often that happens to companies that crack their software? Never.
When we scale up, we often have to buy licenses for peak capacity. Going from 40 to 45 artists costs ~$15k per person, all-in. $10k of that is software. This makes us think twice (more like three times) before hiring people, and ultimately keeps us from creating temporary jobs. How often do “crackers” have that problem? Never.
We have close relationships with awesome resellers like Snader and RFX who help to smooth out the licensing process, along with in-house developed automation that removes some of the labor involved but, even with those things, it’s still an inane and prehistoric experience. Every licensing scheme pretty much ignores the cloud, and some EULAs specifically prohibit us from using software off of our primary premises (ie the cloud). There has to be a better way. Us honest folk are getting punished – tortured even – for being on the up-and-up.
We dare all of you software vendors to move away from the long-hated, inflexible licensing methods of yore. Give us per-month (or day, or hour) subscription schemes that *just work* and allow us to move with industry trends. The VFX industry is in a new era, for better or worse, of expanding and contracting workforces, on-demand processing (cloud computing), and dudes in their garage who can pump out ILM-quality shots.
Make it easy for people to pay for your software in those kinds of ways, and they will! We’ll all be richer for it…
*There are no statistics to validate this statistic